Head of Household vs Single

Difference Between Head of Household and Single

The primary difference between the head of household and single tax filing is that the taxpayers who are eligible for head of household tax filing get higher standard deductions and more relaxed tax rates than the taxpayers who file as single. As per the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for 2021, the difference in the standard deduction between a head of household tax filer and a single tax filer is $6,250. Also, a taxpayer who files as single pays $1,450 higher tax than the head of household tax filer.

Head-of-Household-vs-Single

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Key Takeaways
  • The tax filing for the head of household and single differ in terms of the standard deduction and the initial tax brackets. The standard deduction for head of household is $18,800, while that for the single is $12,550 as per the IRS for the year 2021. The tax brackets up to 22% are more relaxed for the head of household than single.
  • The single tax filing is the default tax filing status for taxpayers who don’t fulfil any other conditions, and thus it is subjected to the most stringent tax rules.
  • To be eligible for either head of household or single, one must be considered unmarried based on the set conditions.

What is Head of Household?

One must file the tax return as a separate individual to be eligible for the head of household tax filing status. Additionally, he/ she should be considered unmarried and be entitled to the exemption for a qualifying person.

  • A taxpayer can be considered unmarried for the entire year if he/ she is single, divorced, or unmarried on the last day of the tax year. Additionally, married taxpayers can also be considered unmarried if they didn’t live with their spouse during the last 6 months of the tax year.
  • Generally, the qualifying person is either a child or parent of the taxpayer, such that the taxpayer paid more than 50% of the support and housing costs for the qualifying person.

What is Single?

A taxpayer who is unmarried and doesn’t qualify for any other filing status files his/ her tax returns under the tax filing status of single. According to the IRS, a single tax filer is considered unmarried if he/ she is unmarried, divorced, or separated from spouse under any legal decree on the last day of the tax year. Also, despite being married, one can still be considered unmarried if he/ she didn’t stay with the spouse for the last 6 months of the tax year.

Head of Household vs Single Infographics

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Head-of-Household-vs-Single-infographics

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Comparative Table – Head of Household vs Single

ParticularsHead of HouseholdSingle
Standard DeductionThe standard deduction for head of household is $18,800.The standard deduction for the single is $12,550.
Tax BracketsThe initial tax brackets are a little generous for the head of household tax filers.  

Taxable income           Tax rate
Up to $14,200              —- 10%
$14,201 to $54,200     —- 12%
$54,201 to $86,350    —- 22%
The single tax filers have the most stringent tax brackets.  
Taxable income           Tax rate
Up to $9,950                —- 10%
$9,951 to $40,525       —- 12%
$40,526 to $86,375    —- 22%
Additional CriteriaThe eligible taxpayer must have paid more than 50% of the housing cost, and a qualifying person must have stayed with the taxpayer for more than 6 months during the tax year.This is the default tax filing status for someone who doesn’t fulfil any other criteria.

Similarities Between Head of Household & Single

The only similarity between the head of household and single tax filers is that in both cases taxpayer has to qualify as unmarried at the end of the tax year. The conditions to be met to be considered unmarried is also the same.

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